Asking God for a sign

August 11, 2006 | Atheism, Background, Spiritual Dry Spells | 8 comments

I was scanning through my referral logs and came across an interesting discussion over at Catholic Answers Forums. Forum member Ahimsa gives an eloquent, interesting description of his conversion. I highly recommend you read the whole story, but this paragraph particularly resonated with me and brought back an intense memory from this time last year:

A friend of mine asked me what evidence, if any, would be sufficient to convince me that the supernatural existed. This question stumped me. My philosophy at the time excluded the contemplation of the supernatural axiomatically: by definition (my definition) even the word “super-natural” was a contradiction in terms. Logic then said that, if my conclusions were definitional, they were circular. I was assuming the conclusion of the subject matter in dispute.

A couple days after I started this blog I went on vacation to the beautiful Ruidoso, NM. The subject of God was very much on my mind. For the first time in my life I was open to the idea that God might exist — or, at least, trying to be open to the idea — but I felt lost and confused and didn’t know where to turn.

I was becoming increasingly dejected that I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere spiritually. I didn’t feel God’s presence, I wasn’t basking in the warm feelings of Jesus’ love for me. I didn’t feel…anything. And it didn’t seem like I ever would.

The second night we were there I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning, the question of God weighing too heavy on my mind for me to sleep. I was depressed about some other things going on in my life and felt particularly low and hopeless. I felt like I was hitting a spiritual rock bottom, so I begged God to help me. I begged him for a sign to let me know he exists.

I felt so bad I started crying and, not wanting to wake my husband, I decided to get out of bed and go sit on the balcony. Our room boasted a spectacular view of the Southern Rocky Mountains, looking out at two large peaks. When I stepped outside I was stunned to see a storm raging silently between the two peaks. The only sound was the rustling of a mild breeze as the lightning flashed brilliantly to illuminate the great cloud, probably a hundred miles away. It was probably 60, 000 feet tall with raging winds, battering the ground below with rain or hail; and yet it seemed like it was framed neatly there between the two mountains just for my amusement. An artist wouldn’t have painted it as such because it would seem too contrived.

The rest of the sky was completely clear and carpeted with stars. I looked up to try to pick out some constellations and a large meteor sparkled across the sky. Then another. I saw probably eight in total that night, many of them large with long, dazzling trails. It was breathtaking.

It was the middle of the night and the grounds below were still, the hotel silent. I was probably the only person watching this display.

“Well, ” I smirked to myself, “be careful what you wish for.” I had asked for a sign, and this was about as “sign-ish” as it gets. What more did I want? Yet I wasn’t convinced. Even as my heart raced upon witnessing the grandeur before me I wrote it off as a storm and an unexpected meteor shower. I just couldn’t believe that there was anything more to this than a random cumulonimbus and some dust entering the earth’s atmosphere.

I realized then that there was no sign that God could give me. If this wouldn’t suffice then nothing would. I wasn’t open to it. Had I walked out on the balcony to see “HI JENNIFER, IT’S ME, GOD!” written across the sky I would have been impressed but ultimately written it off as a practical joke. If Jesus himself materialized to shake my hand and greet me I’d write it off as a hallucination. Because, in my mind, there was a natural explanation for everything, so therefore anything supernatural was impossible.

I arrogantly assumed that because I knew how something worked that God couldn’t be involved. I watched the storm and thought, “That’s not God, that’s just condensation!” And the tightness in my chest and tears welling up in my eyes? “That’s not my ‘soul’ yearning for anything, that’s just chemical reactions in my brain!”

This was another major turning point for me. I realized that night that I wasn’t going to see God if I was determined not to.

8 Comments

  1. Tim

    Such honesty…

  2. RobK

    Wow! Thanks!!! I think this one has to get referenced on my blog. The thing is, when you have faith – you see it everywhere. Again, thanks! My prayers are with you!

  3. Kate

    In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, the rich man finds himself in the flames and asks that lazarus be sent to warn his brothers. He is told (I paraphrase) “If Isaiah and all of the prophets are not enough, than even should someone rise from the dead they will not be convinced.”

  4. Blair

    What a beautiful sign from God.

  5. el

    Very true. You’re a talented writer.

  6. SteveG

    What an amazing testimony by Ahimsa!

    What really resonated in my case was when he wrote…

    I would listen to my fellow atheists, and they would sound as innocent of any notion of what real human life was like as the Man from Mars who has never met human beings or even heard clear rumors of them. Then I would read something written by Christian men of letters, Tolkien, Lewis, or G.K. Chesterton, and see a solid understanding of the joys and woes of human life. They were mature men.

    …The Catholic view of life just seems so mature in comparison to anything else I’ve encountered. So mature that it is somehow liberating.

    I want to second Jennifer’s recommendation that folks read his whole story. It’s really edifying.

    And as always Jennifer, fantastic post on your part as well!

  7. knit_tgz

    As a non-Christian, I never asked God for a sign (unless you count that time when my Protestant friend explained me the meaning of Easter and Redemption and I went to the bathroom to be alone and ask “Please, God, if this is true, make me believe”).

    As a Christian and later a returning Catholic, I have asked God for signs some times (not many, because I believe that by doing that I am somewhat “testing” God, and also risking superstition and giving room for Satan to act). I mostly ask when in some troubled time. (I am weak). He has sometimes given me signs (mostly when I don’t ask, but sometimes when I ask). A couple of them were unmistakeably from God. But a couple of others (either asked for or unasked for) I cannot discern if they come from Him or from Satan (they certainly don’t seem like coincidences, but I don’t wish to expand on this…). If someone still reads this comment, can they please tell me how do they discern if a sign (on an issue where none of the options at stake is immoral or bad by itself, but where the option may have a huge impact) is from God?

  8. Taylor

    Hey. This was a very good read. I think you and I are the same in many ways.

    For instance. The other day I looked up into the clouds saying to myself, “God. Please show me a sign.”

    I then saw Jesus in the clouds, but just like yourself, I practically played it off as a coincidence.

    I want to believe, I truly do. And in my opinion it’s 50% / 50% that god exists. Science can’t prove he does or he does not exist.

    But here’s the thing. I am not a gambling man. I like to know yes or no, right or wrong with a completely truthful answer.

    Anyway, great article. Great read!

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